I grew up in a large Catholic family with parents who prioritized passing down the faith to their kids. Attending Mass, praying the rosary, and evening prayers were almost daily occurrences. As early as second grade I dreamed about becoming a nun, but as I got older that dream slowly shifted. By high school I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and so I decided to follow in my older siblings’ footsteps and attended Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Despite the amazing foundation to my faith, I had never developed much of a personal prayer life.
While it was easy to continue practicing the faith at Franciscan, inside I felt disconnected from God. I longed for something more. While I had little moments of encounter with God during my initial years at college, everything changed for me during a semester abroad in Europe. It was a gradual change, but a particular grace came at the beginning. I had the realization that God wanted all of my heart, not just a part of it. There was no “God shaped hole” that I could compartmentalize Him in. I was made to live in total union with Him, and anything less would never satisfy. I began to pray more honestly. Surrender led to a new-found freedom and hope in my life.
The idea of becoming a sister once again popped into my head during a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. When I returned to the U.S., I went on my first discernment retreat. It was a great experience, but, while I could see myself as a sister one day, there was no immediacy in the call. I finished my degree, graduating with a BA in Psychology and Theology, and began working in ministry.
Over the years, I would look into different orders, but took no concrete steps. I also dated some, but it was never anything serious. I gained life experience, started to pay off student loans, and most importantly, continued to grow in my relationship with the Lord. I ended up working in project management and settled closer to family. I got connected with a vibrant parish, and volunteered with youth ministry alongside a great community of young adults.
It was at this point, during the summer of 2019, when I felt drawn to discern more seriously. I spoke with a few people and was set to visit a community that fall. But when they realized they had overbooked the retreat, I was asked to wait a semester. Instead of frustration or disappointment, I actually felt a deep peace. Ever since the semester in Europe, I had always felt this pull towards being a sister. But it was suddenly gone. I planned to go on the retreat the next semester, but beyond that didn’t feel the desire or need to reach out to more communities.
Then came Covid. While the rest of the world shut down, I ended up taking over youth and young adult ministry at my parish. While I still desired to know my vocation, the Lord was very much at work in my life during that season. I was learning to let Him lead. For years I had gotten the word “wait” when I prayed about my future. But in 2022, everything began to change.
In the beginning of the year, I attended a retreat for youth ministers. Our diocese had chosen “spiritual lepers” as the theme. While they spoke about how to better minister to our teens, all I could focus on was a desire to work with the physically poor again. And along with that came a conviction that I needed to visit the CFR’s.
It took six months for me to reach out to the community, and another six months before my schedule allowed me to visit. But on that first come-and-see the Lord made it clear that this was where I was being called. I immediately felt at home. The sisters were joyful and down to earth, and it was natural for me to just be myself. I knew that this was a community that I could grow with.
In many ways, it felt like the last 10 years of discernment led me directly to this point, and so it was easy to say “yes” to Jesus’ invitation to apply. While it isn’t easy leaving everything behind, there was no way I could do otherwise. Jesus has been so good and faithful to me, and my desire is to step deeper into the life He has invited me to.